Changing the recipe of Arusha’s Food System

Changing the recipe of Arusha’s Food System

in News
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In the often-crowded central market in the heart of Arusha, Baraka Mponda arranges his fresh vegetables ready for the buyers. He knows very well the stiff competition he faces amidst a market with over 1,900 registered and 1,200 unregistered vendors.

To set himself apart, Mr. Mponda realises that the quality of his goods has to meet the hygiene and food safety requirements that his customers expect. More and more consumers are becoming aware of what they are buying and demand quality safe produce.

Arusha is also one of the cities involved in this program. We want to make sure that all food produced in Arusha, especially vegetables and fruits, is safe. The municipality also looks at developing a Food Policy for Arusha together with a wide range of partners
Shukuru Tweve Project coordinator for Food Smart Cities, Rikolto in Tanzania

Food safety is a hot topic in development circles. In 2017, Rikolto officially launched its international Food Smart Cities program, working closely with 6 municipalities and other stakeholders to adopt and implement policies and practices that contribute to sustainable, fair and healthy food systems.

In Tanzania, the programme aims to build capacities among farmers, local authorities, national governments and private sector and to improve food safety for domestic markets through sustainable and scalable interventions.

The Arusha City Council is one of the municipalities with which Rikolto works to solve food safety problems. The Council has shown tremendous commitment thus far by being among the 200 signatories of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, a global framework that encourages cities worldwide to improve food safety, food waste management, and food supply and distribution at urban level.

In this framework, Arusha City Council is aligning its objectives with the Pact and plans to improve markets and sewage systems. The City Council is also putting its support behind the Arusha Food Safety Initiative.

There is a rising concern on the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) of pesticides used on most of the horticultural farms around Arusha as a result of chemical contaminations

Johns Kapeleka Research scientist from the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI)

The Arusha Food Safety Initiative

Rikolto has formulated the Food Safety Initiative to improve public health and build effective food safety systems, which are vital in maintaining consumer confidence yet absent from many markets in Africa. It will develop an environmentally responsible and healthy fresh food sector in Arusha city, including at the central market.

Like many other markets in and around the municipality and the country, Arusha market does not meet the basic hygiene requirements due to its aging structures. As per the city bylaws, Tanzania Food & Drugs Authority (TFDA) and the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) are responsible to verify complance with food safety regulations. Food traders who do not comply with these regulations, face stiff penalties.

To ensure the initiative’s sustainability, a Kiosk Model - a safe food value chain from producer to consumer - is being piloted to integrate all features of Food Safety management.The kiosks are to demonstrate food safety and easy access to the public

Ernest T. Likoko Country Coordinator of AgriProFocus Tanzania

The onus of the program is to create an enabling business environment for small scale food crop traders and vendors. The kiosk model seeks to raise awareness and promote food safety through a collective approach by addressing the food safety challenges that the horticulture/fresh food industry is facing.

At least 200 vendors will be trained and the 'best' six supported to establish the desired kiosks at the market. The farmers to supply the kiosks will be expected to produce safe and healthy food, accessible for the consumer.

Some vendors are already sensitized, like Mr. Mponda: "I am aware of the hazards of the pesticides. I only apply them when absolutely necessary." Several others, however, remain oblivious to the dangers of pesticide overuse on themselves and consumers.

Raising farmers and consumers’ awareness of food safety

Consumer awareness is crucial for the Kiosk model since farmers may ask for premium prices for the quality of goods supplied. Supplying farmers are required to optimally and correctly use pesticides based on good agronomic practices (GAP). This awareness is expected to have a mirrored effect on vendors and inspire them to source goods from reputable farmers.

MUVIKIHO (Muungano wa Vikundi vya Kilimo cha Horticulture) an association for horticultural farmers in Arusha established in 2011, will serve as the main supplier for the six model kiosk pilots to be opened in different parts of the city. With more than 500 individual farmers, the group will efficiently supply the kiosks with sustainably grown and healthy vegetables, fruits and spices.

The produce’s safety status will be vetted from farm level to the selling point. Depending on the success of the pilots, the project partners intend to to scale out the Kiosk Model to other cities around Tanzania. Almost all food currently produced according to the Global GAP standard is exported, leaving the local population at risk of consuming food that does not meet minimum quality standards.

Eric Mwesigwa, Standard and Food Safety Coordinator for Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA)

Vendors like Mr. Mponda have already started growing their own produce. On his two-acre irrigated farm in Tengeru, a suburb 15 kilometers away from the city center of Arusha municipality, he has more control to embrace organic farming to respond to customer demands and only resorts to using pesticides when absolutely necessary.

Eric Mwesigwa, the Standard and Food Safety Coordinator for Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), believes that with adequate and extensive training of farmers on proper pesticides application and overall use of the registered pesticides instead of counterfeits, food safety for all Tanzanian consumers is a possibility.

Unfortunately, there are still many infrastructural challenges, especially within the markets themselves. Aggrey J. Mawole, the city’s agricultural engineer, says that efforts are being made to improve the market’s infrastructure and sewage system to combat the worrying levels of chemical residues in the fresh foodstuffs sold and consumed in Arusha. This is something he and his colleagues at the municipality are very aware of: “The quantity of food available in Arusha is not a problem. Its quality and safety.”

Authors: Sandra kimkabongoyi, Communication Consultant for Rikolto in East Africa and Zephania Ubwani, journalist.

Want to learn more about how Rikolto supports cities in their Food Smart City journey?

Have a look at our international project


Shukuru Tweve
Shukuru Tweve
Cocoa Coordinator & Food Smart City & Horticulture Senior Agribusiness-Mbeya, Tanzania Advisor